Former Eastside soccer standout Caleb Kernan is going dancing. No, he’s not making an appearance on “Dancing With the Stars”. He’s going to the men’s NCAA soccer tournament with his Georgia State Panther teammates.
The Georgia State men’s soccer team earned one of 26 at-large bids awarded by the NCAA on Monday for the 2011 Division I Men’s Soccer Championship. GSU travels to play No. 24 Duke (10-7-3) on Thursday night at 7 p.m. in Durham, N.C.
It’s the third NCAA bid for the Panthers in school history but the first in the current 48-team format. Georgia State previously participated in NCAA play-in games in 2000 and 1997 but fell both times.
“I am so excited I can’t put it into words, I am really proud of the guys,” Georgia State head coach Brett Surrency said, “To be in this position is unbelievable. It’s a tribute to the guys and the work they put into this program over the last couple of years. We’re anxious to train tomorrow and get ready for Duke.”
Kernan starred at Eastside for two years before earning a four-year scholarship to Georgia State. As a redshirt sophomore, Kernan has found plenty of playing time and contributed to the Panthers’ success in 2011. He has one goal on the season but has played in all but one game and made five starts.
Kernan led the Eagles in 2009 with 13 goals during his senior season. He was also named Region 4-AAA Player of the Year and The News Player of the Year. He redshirted his first year but has played the past two.
The Panthers are coming off their first Colonial Athletic Association Tournament appearance in school history. GSU, the sixth seed in the CAA Tournament, earned a 2-1 victory over third-seeded William & Mary last Thursday before falling to Old Dominion 5-3 in the semifinals on Friday.
The Panthers were ranked No. 40 in the RPI before the CAA Tournament while Duke was No. 22. Georgia State is one of four CAA teams to make the NCAA Tournament, joining James Madison, Old Dominion and CAA Champion Delaware. The Panthers played a total of five teams in this year’s tournament field, posting a 0-5-1 including a 1-1 tie at 11th-overall seed UAB on Sept. 11.
Georgia State is 0-2 all-time against the Blue Devils with the last matchup occurring in 2004, a 4-0 loss, when Duke was ranked No. 6 in the nation. The Panthers fell 1-0 in the other matchup in 2002.
Georgia State’s NCAA bid is part of a remarkable turnaround for the Panthers under Surrency in is second season. Two years removed from a four-win season, GSU is 13-7-2 this season after being picked to finish 12th out of 12 teams in the CAA prior to the season.
In GSU’s two previous NCAA games the Panthers lost 4-3 to Rhode Island in overtime in 2000 and fell 4-2 to Howard in 1997.
Kernan is the second Eastside athlete this year to go to an NCAA Division 1 championship tournament. Catherine Lee played in the Women's College World Series in March for a second straight season with the University of Missouri's softball team Lee graduated in 2007.